During my last two weeks in Istanbul, I am taking care of business that would be impossible/too expensive/tortuous to accomplish elsewhere, particularly France. One of those tasks is getting rid of ten years of accumulated world currencies, several of which no longer exist, and which weighed about five pounds. They weren’t coming to France. What to do?
Currency is only useful if you can find someone to give you something of value in exchange for it. There aren’t a lot of takers for a stack of Uzbek Som that’s worth less than two dollars. So what should I do with it? Throw it out? Seems wrong to do, especially the grossly devalued Ukraine Hryvnia, the $2 of which I have probably makes up half of some poor, cold babushka’s pension.
There’s a döviz (currency exchange) in Karaköy, near the ferry terminal. Every time I walk by it, I laugh at the sign in the window, “we take the whole world’s currencies.” They probably just mean Bulgaria's, right? Still, it seemed worthwhile to check it out, just to see if they meant it.
In preparation, I sat down on the floor of my office and made piles. Pakistan. Libya. Afghanistan. South Africa. Qatar. Uganda. I labeled the piles and put coins and bills from about 25 countries in sandwich bags. I was mocked for doing this, by the way.
I filled a small backpack with the sandwich bags full of coins and bills. I swaggered into Nursever Döviz.
“Really? All the world’s currencies?” I asked the two guys behind the window. I smirked.
“Really, all of them.” They smirked back.
I dumped my backpack out on the counter. I handed them the bag of Azeri Manat, an easy one. They scoffed and counted it out. "Of course we take that." OK, so I handed them the Rwanda bag as test. They laughed and counted it out.
They didn’t blink when I gave them bills from Yemen, Saudi, Indonesia, Israel and a stack of Estonian Kroons, which aren’t even used anymore. They made some phone calls, consulted charts and kept a neat list of value in Turkish Lira. The only one they wouldn't take: 1000 Iraqi dinar. Not sure why.
Too be clear, their exchange rate was not generous, but they took a handful of Malaysian coins from me! What else was I going to do with those?
So, taking into consideration that leaving every country with $1- $20 worth of its currency in your wallet deserves some kind of penalty because it's dumb, I am pretty happy with my 108 TL, or about $46. I will buy myself something nice and not share it with my tormentors. They know who they are.